A profound and inspired book packed with facts – The artist Georges Papazoff as a writer. Verbalizing the surreal - was presented at the National Museum of Bulgarian Fine Arts. Its author, Prof. Rumyana Stancheva is a prominent researcher in the sphere of comparative European theory of literature and Balkan studies.
For many years she has been studying the work and heritage of artist Georges Papazoff. Leafing through the catalogue of the French National Library she discovered there were six books by him in French. (Papazoff also has one book in Bulgarian – Paris. Life and work of great artists.) Born in 1894 in Yambol, Southern Bulgaria, he studied park engineering in Prague and Munich, worked and continued his studies in Vienna and Berlin but ultimately settled in Paris. Georges Papazoff has had exhibitions in Paris, in many cities across Europe, as well as in USA. Here now is critic Mitko Novkov:
“Papazoff is one of the most prominent Bulgarian and French artists, a trailblazer in surrealism, even though he never actually joined the surrealist movement – due to his robust Bulgarian individualism the collective spirit was far from his thoughts. It has been a very long time since works of his have been shown to the Bulgarian public. In fact, Georges Papazoff’s name is known to the public mostly from the monograph by art critic Kiril Krastev and now, I am happy to say from the book by Rumyana Stancheva. But as an artist he is not widely known, his works have not been on show in Bulgaria for a long time.”
Papazoff’s first one-man show was in fact in Sofia, in 1919. In the mid-1930s he came back to Bulgaria and spent around two years here, trying to make his mark in art, though he received little support. Prominent intellectuals like Sirak Skitnik and Simeon Radev wrote articles about him but on the whole the public in this country never warmed up to his art.
“The art he created was such a far cry from the things held in high esteem at the time,” Mitko Novkov says. “His use of figurative elements was very unconventional – he has odd colour combinations etc. Realism is something Papazoff definitely shuns. Perhaps in those times the public was not ready for an artist like him or he overrated their taste - that is something we shall probably never know, anyhow artist and public never “hit it off”, Mitko Novkov says further. “That was when Papazov wrote a book in Bulgarian about French artists, in an attempt to explain his own style of painting. The interesting thing here is that as a writer he can be described as a realist – both in his novels and in his memoirs. He has left us his reminiscences of artists who were his friends – Jules Pascin, an artist who is also Bulgarian-born, Derain – a very famous French artist and others. So, even though as an artist Papazoff is a surrealist, as a writer he is a critical realist through and through.”
Two of his books – the novelette Priest Vassil and his novel The Drenov brothers – are in fact based on his own family history. Another one – a memoir book entitled Pascin! Pascin! It’s me! – underwent a second supplemented edition. Two more of Papazoff’s memoir books are dedicated to his great friendship with Derain – a co-founder of Fauvism. His last book – an autobiography called Following in the footsteps of the artist came out one year after his death in 1972.
“Georges Papazoff’s books in French are not available in Bulgaria (with the exception of his Priest Vassil which can be found at the National Library),” says Mitko Novkov. “They have never been translated. This is an omission on our part as Bulgarians, the fact that they have never attracted our attention. Even if they fail to meet all of our criteria, they will give us a much better idea of what this world-famous Bulgarian artist was like. So, Bulgarian publishers should consider releasing his works.”
English version: Milena Daynova
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